Fuel Your Adventure: Backpacking Meal Ideas

Marc Halpern


Nutrition, Strength Training


I’ll be on a trail for a week in August without access to a grocery store, just the Colorado mountains. Many people take dehydrated food that you can buy at the camping store and I have to admit, it’s quite delicious. However, it doesn't have the highest-quality ingredients, and my wife cannot do dairy or wheat.


Any trip that involves being outdoors with limited access to quality food can be difficult. Packing your own food works great if you can fit it and it doesn’t drag you down. Below are ways to bring food on the go and survive without access to a Whole Foods.



Pack Smart, Pack Light

Dehydrated fruit and vegetables make excellent backpacking food. Pair them with a simple protein and you’re set. Making your own isn’t complicated, and dehydrators range in price. I use this one. To cook dehydrated food, I use a small boiling device such as a Jet Boil. It’s light, compact, and can fit easily into a pack.


If you aren’t ready to dehydrate your own, most stores carry dried options like green beans and bananas. Just watch out for excess sugar or salt. A more expensive, yet convenient route is to find a commercial brand of dehydrated food that has a more homemade ingredient list. Paleo Meals to Go is a quality option.


Options for protein include:


  • Beef or turkey jerky
  • Tuna and salmon pouches
  • Roasted chickpeas (very lightweight)
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Whey, egg, pea, or hemp protein powder
  • Quest bar or equivalent
  • Cured salami (types that are not refrigerated)
  • Almond or peanut butter (slightly heavy, but calorie dense)


This is not an exhaustive list, but these are all non-perishable items you can bring to keep you full. If you are backpacking, weight matters the most, so do a few practice hikes with full packs to test the weight. Also, eat the heaviest foods first. As you fatigue a few days into a trip, you’ll appreciate a lighter pack. Tuna pouches, nuts, and bars can weigh more than dehydrated foods, so eat them first, and get to the lighter foods after.


Other food to bring:


  • Dried seaweed. Weighing next to nothing, it’s an easy way to get sodium, potassium, minerals, and iodine
  • Ramen noodle. Quick and easy carbs
  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • Small baggies of spices from the cabinet. Don’t bring the container, just pour some of the basics into tiny bags. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, and chili pepper would be on my list.


Choosing the right foods to bring on a trip is always a challenge. Whether you are backpacking or just traveling, it’s always good to have non-perishable, light, and nutritious options with you. Making your own or purchasing dehydrated meals may be an option for you. Instead of relying on bars and powders, if you have access to heat and water, you can have a regular meal. 


Want more travel nutrition advice?

How to Stick to Your Nutrition Goals While Traveling

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